The Butterfly Effect

According to Wikipedia, in chaos theory the term butterfly effect refers to the idea “that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of a system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events (compare: domino effect). Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different.”

The important thing is to know WHEN and HOW to “flap.” Let me explain!

Every business owner and manager has seen the effect of one system, or the lack of good systems, impacting the company’s product and/or service.

Just last week, I was onsite at the facility of one of my favorite clients who was hosting representatives from another company, based in California. The five of us sat at a conference table with a couple of laptops and a projection screen, brainstorming and mapping a process that causes chaos in the client’s industry.

We spent two days developing a Master Control Checklist for that industry. It became more than clear to the participants how one step in the process affects many other systems, processes and people.

Trying to write a step-by-step quality control checklist—and anticipate the many variables that may be encountered in order to minimize the negative effects on the final outcome—can be tedious and grueling work. However, the results are amazing and rewarding. When you finally see the power of your systems at work, and the money that can be saved by reducing chaos and waste, you will never be the same again.

During the second day of developing this system, we took a break at one point and somehow got on the subject of entrepreneurs—their good and bad characteristics. It seems that we entrepreneurs are notorious for not finishing what we’ve started before moving on to chasing the next big idea.

Philip Beyer, founder/president of Beyer Printing and Ebiz Products LLC in Nashville, TN, is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant, author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business," and an InterTech Award recipient for the design and development of System100™ business process management software. Philip speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses.
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